Zettel Eager to Make Plays at Interior Spot on D-Line
April 10, 2014
By Tony Mancuso
Zettel provided a big spark for the Nittany Lion defense on numerous occasions in 2013 with speed and quickness off the edge at defensive end. He made 16 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and had 4.0 sacks last season.
But the West Branch, Mich., native knew that he could play an even bigger role at defensive tackle if given the opportunity to do so. Zettel played in the interior of the defensive line during his redshirt freshman season in 2012, but weighing only 253 pounds, he moved to end prior to 2013.
Zettel finished last season at roughly 260 pounds. Now, just a bit more than four months later, Zettel weighs nearly 280 pounds after making significant muscle growth in the weight room under the direction of Dwight Galt.
The weight game coincides with a move back to defensive tackle this spring, something Zettel is fired up about.
"You bring a lot of the same techniques to tackle," Zettel said. "Personally, I feel like things are going really well. I love playing inside. It's a lot more about reading things quicker and reacting with a lot less thinking. Basically, you bring the same techniques, but you need to stay lower and use more leverage because you are going against double teams."
Zettel has been superb for the defensive line during spring practice. With great speed and quickness, he is a very difficult matchup for an interior offensive lineman. Zettel has been tough to block for anyone lining up across from him.
"His first step at the line of scrimmage is one of the best I've ever seen," defensive end C.J. Olaniyan said. "He's going to help us a lot this season, and he is going to make a lot of plays for us."
His move to defensive tackle required great commitment in the weight room and with his diet. Zettel is eating five or six meals a day in order to keep his metabolism at peak performance. The increased diet of roughly 2,000 calories per day has helped expedite the process of reaching a targeted playing weight of 285 pounds when the season begins in the fall.
"I have been a lot more consistent in my meals and trying to eat a lot more frequently throughout the day," Zettel said.
Zettel is thrilled with progress he has made, and the increased weight gain has helped him play more physical in the trenches.
"It's helped a lot. Fighting off blocks, I feel a lot strong. It wasn't just weight that I put on, it was a lot of muscle, too," said Zettel. "My speed actually improved this spring. Everything has been beneficial from the weight."
Despite the weight gain, Zettel got a step quicker during physical testing at the end of winter conditioning, which will pay huge dividends to competing in the interior of the line.
"Especially having a good group of defensive ends like we do, I think I will see a lot of one-on-ones, and I will be able to use my speed even more. That's where the quickness really helps," Zettel said.
Zettel and the Nittany Lion defense will get to showcase the progress that they have made during the offseason on Saturday at the Blue-White Game (1:30 p.m.). Confidence is high for the Michigan native, and he is looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday.
"We are all going out there compete against each other," Zettel said. "We are going to compete like we have been doing in practice, but now the fans can watch us. I'm excited for it."